A man on the radar of French authorities was killed Monday, after ramming a car carrying explosives into a police vehicle in the capital's Champs-Elysees shopping district, prompting a fiery blast, officials said. France's anti-terrorism prosecutor opened an investigation.
French police officials said the man, who was a 31-years-old from a suburb in Paris, had been flagged for extremism. The officials identified him as the man from the suburb of Argenteuil, and said he had an "S'' file, which means authorities had been aware of potential links to extremism.
No police officers or passers-by were hurt, the Paris police department said. It is unclear why the attacker drove into the police vehicle, though officials said the incident was apparently deliberate.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the man was killed after an attempted attack on a police convoy, saying that shows the threat is still very high in the country and justifies the state of emergency in place since 2015. He said he will present a bill Wednesday at a Cabinet meeting to extend the state of emergency from 15 July, its current expiration date, until November.
Police officials told The Associated Press that a handgun was found on the driver, who they said was badly burned after the vehicle exploded. They spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal details of the incident, the second this year on the city's most famous avenue, which is popular with the tourists.
An attacker defending the Islamic State group shot and killed a police officer on the Champs-Elysees in April, days before the presidential election, prompting an extensive security operation. France is under a state of emergency after a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks.
On Monday, police cordoned off a broad swath of the Champs-Elysees avenue that cuts through central Paris, warning people to avoid the area. Bomb squads are combing the area and the nearest subway station is closed to the public.
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said that the man is dead.
Eric Favereau, a journalist for Liberation newspaper who was driving a scooter behind the gendarmes, said he saw a car blocking the convoy's path, then an implosion in the vehicle. Favereau wrote that the gendarmes smashed open the windows of the car while it was in flames and dragged out its occupant. Other gendarmes used fire extinguishers to put out the flames. The account didn't say what happened to the occupant of the car afterward.
A man could be seen lying on his stomach on the ground immediately after the incident, wearing a white shirt and dark shorts.